Condo Market: The Evolution of the Condo
Bigger is often better
I guess the old adage that ‘what goes around, comes around’ is right on. It spans into our universe — the condo universe. Right here in the centre of the condo universe. I was fortunate enough to work with the pioneers in the business, starting right out of university about 35 years ago.
Condos represented about 10 per cent of the new housing market; slowly creeping up over the years, to 15 and 20 per cent at best. The suites were big; two-bedrooms almost always. I remember selling them at $120 to $150 a foot in some pretty good neighbourhoods. Those now hit upwards of $1,000 per foot in North York, Thornhill, places like that.
I marketed thousands of new homes concurrently. They were everyone’s first choice — the backyard, 2 and one half kids and a dog, the right school district and all those other things. Really, that was everyone’s first choice. Prices per square foot were lower, sticker prices were higher. That part hasn’t changed much, even today.
As the world evolved, and Toronto became a destination for so many new Torontonians, we went condo crazy. Had no choice. The Greenbelt was frozen, the lake remained and we went east and west, and further north. Condos were it. But it no longer was necessarily an affordable alternative to housing. It became, as it is now, a first choice for many.
The average new condo still is hundreds of thousands of dollars less than its detached counterpart, despite the rising costs of development and construction in recent years. And those have been whopping.
We saw not so long ago the micro suites, the quantity of components, i.e. bedrooms and bathrooms, becoming more important than the sizing of the rooms themselves. Critical dimensions we used to use in creating spaces became downsized considerably. The 600-square-foot two bed/two bath condo came of age. And it continues to exist appropriately in some locales.
But as the world has turned, and as sexy condo locations are being filled and becoming harder to find, some of the great new offerings are being found right in the neighbourhoods that people value and want to stay in, places where they didn’t have opportunities to downsize without compromising their lifestyle in terms of suite design particularly. I personally moved last week from an 800-square-foot two-bedroom condo to a 950-squarefoot condo. Same components, but very different spaces. Night and day in many ways. Both serve and will serve a purpose; different costs of course.
Look for these types of things in many of the great new projects that will be entering the market this time of the year. One particularly good example of this is coming this fall to the Kingsway; I’ve had the privilege to work on the design, architecture and the planning of this great soon to be master planned community — 293 The Kingsway. This is a redevelopment consisting of five new buildings in a rare private enclave setting in an outstanding established valuable neighbourhood. The suites very much reflect the upsizing of things in all categories — one bedrooms, one plus den, two-bedrooms and two pluses.
It’s a reflection of just how far we’ve come as an industry, and just how integral condo living is in our great town. No longer an alternative choice; it has become very much our first choice.
MARK COHEN is a founding partner of The Condo Store Marketing Systems, a firm specializing in the design, marketing and sales of condo and new home communities in and outside of the GTA.